My Cold Shower Routine Explained

So in my last post I explained how beginning a cold shower regimen has jump started my weight and body fat loss. I figured I would give an overview of what I have learned from my own research and experience. First the principle it works on is most easily explained by Michael Phelps.

As Tim Ferriss explains in The 4 Hour Body even rigorous training schedule that Phelps followed couldn’t have burned the 10 or 12 thousand calories a day he was eating.  The had to be another explanation to why he wasn’t gaining a ton of weight. The answer lied in thermodynamics. In order to keep his core body temperature from dropping while in the pool for that many hours his body had to burn calories. Simply maintaining that core temperature is enough to raise one’s metabolic rate fairly quickly. The detailed story, which involved a NASA scientist, is available in the book but that is the general premise.

So there are three options to take advantage of this metabolic boost:

  1. Ice Baths: filling the tub up with water and a bunch of ice until you’re laying totally submerged.
  2. Ice Pack: a large ice pack rested on the back of ones neck in the evening for 30 minutes.
  3. Cold Showers: 5 to 10 minutes of cold shower water running over you.

In a perfect world we’d all be using options number one. Unfortunately Mr. Ferriss reported seizure like shivering which didn’t sound like it was worth it. Option number 2 was very easy to do but I haven’t been seeing any real results from it. that left option three which isn’t as comfortable as the ice pack but definitely not giving me any seizures.

My typical shower consists of three minutes of a normal shower temperature for washing purposes and then a rapid change to an all cold shower for 5 minutes. During the cold phase I turn from facing away from the shower and then facing the shower every minute. I also make sure to wet my head and face a bunch of times. I also spray my legs, arms and under arms a couple times as well to make sure that my body is work as hard as possible to keep me warm. That is way being submerged is much more effective but this still does the trick.

Most people I tell about my cold showers say one of two things:

  1. I could never do that, I need my warm shower in the morning.
  2. That can’t work as well as you think it does, it is just a coincidence.

Well, I can’t really help number one except to say that it is just like jumping into a swimming pool. It is really cold at first and then you acclimate. If you are able to do that you can do this. In fact I feel much more refreshed and alert after the cold shower then I ever have from taking a warm one. The second one I can more easily refute. I have the data that shows diet and exercise being equal I lost more weight and body fat with the cold showers than I do without them.

I’ve seen many other people talk about skin, circulation and hair quality benefits for cold showers as well which if true really makes taking them a no brainer for most people.

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It’s been a while…

So it’s been a really long time since my last post. Golf season came and I totally forgot about most anything else. This is pretty typical and I usually use this as an excuse to lay off the diet and exercise (other than walking with my golf bag). In my last post I mentioned that I was really frustrated by not being able to get below around 347 pounds and it did cause me to go off the rails on the diet and not exercise. This back slide had me back to around 355.

A friend asked to borrow my copy of the 4 Hour Body and it got me looking at the book again. I had been thinking about doing something different like changing my diet or doing other exercises but while I was looking at the book I got an idea. You might remember that I was using a cold pack at night in an attempt to do some low end cold therapy.  I hadn’t really noticed a difference when using the cold pack and always thought about doing the cold shower instead but thought it would be torture.

Being kinda desperate I went ahead and tried it out for the first time about a month ago. I setup my round timer that I use when exercising to give me 3 minutes and 30 seconds to have a warm shower and them time me for a 5 minute cold one. The initial change to cold sucked but after half a minute or so I felt like I could make it colder. I found that I acclimated in the same way that you do when jumping into a pool that isn’t heated. After a minute or so it was no big deal at all. Weight loss aside I can say that the cold showers have made me feel way better and enabled me to feel really refreshed in the morning. People have also commented that my hair and skin look nicer which I have also seen other people talk about after taking cold showers.

Now to talk about the weight loss benefit. I really believe that this switch to cold showers has jump started my metabolism. My last real update on this site had me at 348 pounds and 37% body fat. My current weight is 333.3 pounds with 34.6% body fat. My low weight was at the end of last week at 331 pounds but I had a higher body fat percentage.

I’m not gonna go into the theory behind cold therapy in this post but one of the main benefits is supposed to be losing body fat faster. I can say that even though I only started about 6 weeks ago at 36.2% body fat and 342.9 pounds I have seen a decrease of 1.6% in that time. This is way more than before I was doing the cold showers. I’ve only lost about 10 pounds of actual weight but almost half of that has been body fat. This will even further improve my metabolism and allow me to burn more calories even when I’m not active.

A little cold shower music in celebration: